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A nuclear arms race in Middle East must be avoided

The Ultimate Nightmare: A Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East, The National Interest,  John Carlson 14 Apr 15, If the framework announced in Switzerland on April 2 regarding Iran’s nuclear program and detailed in a US State Department Fact Sheet is successfully carried forward to an agreed Plan of Action (due to be concluded by June 30), it will be a major achievement.

But it should not be seen as the end of the process. It is a definitive step, but it will need to be followed by a number of concrete actions before we can consider that the Iranian nuclear problem has been resolved.

If the deal is agreed in June, and if it is faithfully implemented, it will give all parties – Iran, its neighbors, and the wider international community – 15 years of breathing space. It is essential to use this time effectively to ensure the deal doesn’t just kick the can down the road. During this period decisions need to be made by Iran and others to ensure that the Middle East does not end up in a South Asia-style nuclear arms race.

It is by no means a forgone conclusion that Iran wants nuclear weapons, though Iran no doubt believes that having the capability to produce nuclear  weapons within a relatively short time – what is termed nuclear hedging – has major strategic value. It is essential to ensure that the consequences for crossing the threshold remain high enough to deter Iran from doing so. This will require the US to keep a high level of engagement in Middle East affairs for the foreseeable future.

But having Iran maintain “just” a hedging posture cannot be considered a good outcome – we have already seen some of Iran’s neighbors wanting to develop nuclear programs that will give them a similar capability. A situation of strategic competition in nuclear capability will be destabilizing for the Middle East……..

Another essential project to pursue during the breathing space is a Middle East WMD-free zone. Iran must be persuaded that the best way of ensuring its long-term national security is not through nuclear capability but through the establishment of such a zone, a point recently made by Saudi Arabia. If Iran pursues nuclear weapons, or a stronger hedging posture, its current advantage will erode over time as others pursue the same. Eventually Iran will find itself with nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable neighbors, and its strategic circumstances will be substantially worse than anything it can imagine today.

The same challenge confronts Israel. If others in the region become nuclear armed or even just nuclear capable, the strategic advantage Israel now enjoys will disappear. It would be very risky to rely on nuclear deterrence in these circumstances. For Israel as well as Iran, a WMD-free zone offers the best long-term future. This means that eventually Israel will have to divest itself of nuclear weapons. This may seem unthinkable today, but a future where others in the region also have nuclear weapons is even more unthinkable. Others in the region must be realistic; Israel cannot be expected to disarm as a pre-condition for a WMD-free zone. But Israel must be prepared to think in terms of a phased approach, disarming in stages as a WMD-free zone is established and is shown to be effective. ……http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-ultimate-nightmare-nuclear-arms-race-the-middle-east-12627

April 15, 2015 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international

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